Heidi Sanderson waited at the corner across from A.H. Bush Elementary School on Tuesday morning, bundled in layers of clothes including a jacket that is rated for negative 20 degrees and a fluorescent vest.

Cars, driven by parents dropping off students by the school’s main doors, fishtailed as they turned onto Anderson Street. Other students gathered around Sanderson to finish their walk to school. Once a small crowd built up around her, Sanderson asked one of the kids to push the button that activates the flashing crosswalk lights before she headed to the center of the slush-covered street with her handheld stop sign raised.

“OK Okay guys, let’s go to school!” she said as the kids filed across the street around her.

It can be tough to spend hours standing outside on snowy winter days for part-time pay. But those are also the days when Sanderson and other crossing guards are needed the most for elementary students, and the guards say they enjoy the opportunity to help the kids multiple times a day.

There are only six crossing guards in Idaho Falls School District 91 that report directly to the district’s Transportation Department and Director Ralph Frost. The other guards are either district employees that are overseen by their school principal or volunteers who organize separately. Frost said the part-time nature of the job and the inclement weather can make recruiting crossing guards difficult.

“We haven’t had to recruit very often because most of my people stay for a while. When we do, we work with the parents and PTOs to see if there are any parents in the area who want to help out,” Frost said.

The Sunnyside Area Safety Committee began in 2017, when 20 local parents volunteered to help students get to and from Sunnyside Elementary School during the week. Ongoing concerns about the safety of the crossing there were among the factors that led to parents opposing a proposed development near Sunnyside by Rockwell Homes this spring.

Sanderson is the only crossing guard stationed at A.H. Bush, where she works before and after school. She estimated that she helps between 25 and 50 students get to A.H. Bush every morning, depending on the weather. Most of them she knows by name, whether they’ve been crossing at her intersection for years or just started kindergarten.

“If I can catch their name when their parents are talking to them or the kids are talking to each other, I can remember it,” Sanderson said.

She’s also the only crossing guard at Linden Park Elementary School in the mornings, where she works from 7:15 a.m. until school starts around 8. The string of lights taped to her stop sign was added for the benefit of the students she helps cross John Adams Parkway, after parents said they were having issues seeing her in the street that early in the morning.

Vicki Curran is the district’s longest-serving crossing guard. She has been with District 91 for 30 years, 26 of which have been spent working at the busy intersection of 17th Street and South Boulevard.

Curran sees all ages of students, with the youngest students walking to Hawthorne Elementary School and the older ones heading to the bus stop next to the school. Some of the young kids she used to help get to elementary school are still living in Idaho Falls and have brought their children to meet Curran.

“I feel old sometimes, but it’s really nice that they bring out their kids to see me. I have some kids who have basically adopted me as their aunt,” Curran said.

In addition to helping dozens of kids walk to Hawthorne, Curran also knits hats for students that need them during the winter. In some years she would give away more than 100 hats, with some students asking for a new hat every year as they grew out of their old ones and others keeping the hat with them for years.

{span style=”background-color: #ffffff;”}Curran also has seen plenty of crashes and other accidents on the job over her decades. Kids have been hit by trucks backing out of driveways on South Boulevard and cars skidding in bad weather. Once, while she was training a new crossing guard at the intersection, they saw a poodle run into the road and get killed by a driver on his cellphone. The woman Curran was training dropped out on the spot, but she pushed through and kept guiding students to school.{/span}

“It’s got to be about the kids. I only see them for a few minutes every day but that’s enough to make them my kids,” Curran said.

Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.